Establishing knowledge and further training in an international and interdisciplinary fashion 2012/09/14 - Leonardo Award winner Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger

The President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, will receive the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award 2012 in the category “Thought Leadership”. The award honours personalities that have placed an emphasis on intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth for Europe in their innovative efforts. The initiators of the award thus also acknowledge Prof. Bullinger’s commitment towards new technologies in company training and knowledge management, and their connection with a modern management culture.

The European Union’s economic programme “Europe 2020” wishes to create “intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth”, which better coordinates the national and European economic areas. The Leonardo Award also sees itself in this spirit – particularly in the category "Thought Leadership". “As President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger has implemented many projects with particular relevance for Corporate Learning, which economic players as well as the civil population in Europe have taken as an orientation“, explains Günther M. Szogs, “Secretary” of the Leonardo Advisory Board as to why the decision was made in favour of the Fraunhofer President.

Prof. Bullinger is someone who shapes the future in the best Leonardo spirit, as he creates space for innovative developments, makes it accessible for responsible social usage and at the same time never takes his eye off the corporate success. In addition, the internationally manned Advisory Board was impressed by the way he banks on a combination of knowledge management and further training. “The first award winner of the Leonardo Award, Jacques Delors, also always emphasized that – in the sense of the four-pillar model for education, which he represented as the UNESCO Chairman for Education in the 21st century: Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to live together und Learning to be“, says Leonardo Secretary Szogs.

Life-long learning – across Europe

“We all approve of the idea of life-long learning. But nevertheless, we don’t really take it seriously enough”, says Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger. In order to achieve intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth, life-long learning has to be linked to operational tasks much more. “Further training in companies should not be perceived like a school class in a closed room. In fact, many learning programmes take place directly in real-life working conditions", explains the award winner. Continuing vocational training is a central, integral task for superiors and not something that merely “comes with the job of being a manager”.

Furthermore, education has to be Europeanized more. The Bachelor and Master programmes are a first step in order to improve the possibilities of studying across borders. But vocational training should also be possible across Europe – for example through increased commitment to language training. Compared to Asian, Eastern European and Latin American competitors, Europe has to increase its innovative pace. “In Germany we are still far too nationally minded.“ That is also a reason why he placed great emphasis on increasing the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's international outlook.

Networking employees in an interdisciplinary fashion

Apart from the cross-national perception of knowledge and learning, the Leonardo Award also stands for the connection of different research disciplines. “When we began to realign the entire working structure at the Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation (IAO - Institute for Work Management and Organisation) and to set up the area of industrial education 20 years ago, we also included pedagogues, sociologists and psychologists – all of those “windbags” as we engineers used to call them”, explains Prof. Bullinger. “We realised that we need them if we wish to introduce a different work culture and to enable the employees to deal with new challenges.“ And the IAO has kept those structures to this day: a third of the staff at the Institute are engineers, a third are business economists and a third are social scientists.

However, their networking and transdisciplinary cooperation are by no means something that happens like that. Today, a lot of companies assume that Social Media will suffice as an initial help – but the Web 2.0 alone is not enough. “We introduced Social Media at Fraunhofer because it creates opportunities for encounter. But what we need in addition to that are the opportunities of working together”, demands Prof. Bullinger. Social Media is merely a platform in order to get to know interesting partners. The appropriate corporate culture is also required in order for forms of cooperation to emerge.

The boss no longer knows everything better

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft therefore gave itself leadership rules to include the employees as much as possible. Executive managers have to ensure that a culture of trust is developed, in which the established free spaces are observed without abandoning principles of efficiency. The Fraunhofer President has noticed that “the end of the principle that the boss always knows everything better has a positive effect on the exchange of ideas”. He experienced this effect not only in his own organisation but also in many companies with which Fraunhofer works together on mutual projects.

A big challenge lies in the task of bringing together this leadership culture with future-oriented technologies. “It is not only about creating a network between the various departments at Fraunhofer, but actually defining a network value and usefulness”, is how Prof. Bullinger describes one of his central concerns in the past ten years. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has the aim of setting up a “client network group”, with projects that can provide clients with systematic solutions involving innovative technologies in interplay with the competencies of different institutes.

From 3D learning applications to Mobile Learning

New technologies, which also play a role for further vocational training, are currently being tested by the Fraunhofer IAO in the new Zentrum für Virtuelles Engineering (ZVE – Centre for Virtual Engineering). For example, 3D applications are very promising for Corporate Learning, which enables greater immersion into the world of the medium. Prof. Bullinger is convinced that “the stronger the medium’s hold on the user, the greater the learning success can be”. That is not necessarily a guarantee for learning success, as senseless things can also be conveyed with such an application, but the high rate of immersion using 3D and Virtual Reality does provide great potential for learning.

Learning could also be revolutionised by innovations in Mobile Learning, claims Prof. Bullinger. The Fraunhofer institute for communications engineering, the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI in Berlin, currently holds the world record for data transfer: Which now lies at 10.2 terabits per second – approximately 240 DVDs per second. “If you interconnect such rapid data transfer systems with immersive technologies, new learning content will be necessary”, says the Leonardo prize winner. “The pure learning of facts will be forced back even more, as users have access to up-to-date information from a database at all times.“

Award ceremony as a prelude to the HRM Expo

The award ceremony for the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award on the evening before the HRM Expo is the prelude to Europe’s biggest human resources exhibition: Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger will receive the award on 24th September 2012, in the Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg near Cologne – after a laudation by Svenja Schulze, Minister for Innovation, Science and Research in North Rhine Westphalia.

Further award winners will be the owners of the automation company Festo, Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. h.c. Kurt Stoll, in the category “Company Transformation”, as well as Prof. Sugata Mitra, initiator of the “Hole in the Wall" experiment, in the category “Crossing Borders”.


To register for the award ceremony please contact:
Sandra Schall
HRM Research Institute GmbH
Rheinkaistrasse 2
68159 Mannheim
Tel: +49 621 40166-335